Magpies swoop on patchy Wallaroos
THE stage looked set for a magical and miraculous ending.
Six days earlier the Wallaroos used a stunning second-half surge to go agonisingly close to beating the Hervey Bay Seagulls, and Saturday night's contest against Eastern Suburbs seemed ready to see them perhaps go one step further at Eskdale Park.
The second half featured some backs against the wall play, two long range tries, adventurous ball movement and wild momentum shifts - in other words, it possessed the trademarks of the Wallaroos' historic 2003 grand final triumph.
What it ultimately didn't produce, however, was a Wallaroos win.
With the 2003 premiership team at the ground for their 10th year reunion, the home side took full advantage of its meagre chances, crossing the line three times in seven minutes and scoring five tries in total in the second half.
But some soft defence down the stretch extinguished the Wallaroos' attacking flair, dooming the club to its eighth straight loss, this time by a final score of 38-28.
"We were sort of asleep there until the second half when we kicked up a gear and gave it to them," Wallaroos hooker Damien Otto said after the game.
"It was a good comeback and you couldn't ask for anymore from the boys."
The Wallaroos trailed 20-0 at half-time, but in a frantic start to the second half closed within two points after an intercept 80m runaway try from halfback Luke Waters.
Much to the Wallaroos' chagrin, their goal line defence was exposed twice with Gabriel Little and Dane Richards both carrying multiple defenders over the line to score, while halfback Joshua Garden brushed off flimsy defence to set up Ryan Moss and re-establish the Magpies' superiority.
That scuppered any chance of a comeback victory, despite Otto and Sam Hutchins crossing late to add some respectability to the final score line.
"Even through juniors to now we've played patchy football, that's just something that's in our game, but something we will have to work on for next year," Otto said.
The Wallaroos' long and frustrating year will come to an end against Western Suburbs next week at Salter Oval.
And despite being certain to claim the wooden spoon, Otto said they still had plenty to play for.